jo skates

Skating in the key of life


Growing older and post-sweater project postings

Wrapping up my mom’s sweater project this week, and I’m thinking about some new ideas for future posts. Maybe I’ll write about some of the pre-gold and gold dances; I’m so excited to be working on these (finally!). I had a great lesson last week from Laurie on the Viennese waltz (the 1-1-3 timing on the forward and backwards progressives, outside-outside edges, and the outside mohawk). And all those new exercises that I need to write down or I will forget them, like the one I got last week: alternating back crossovers with a change of edge/edge pull in between.

It’s funny to be at an age when everyone seems to be talking about their bodies getting older and creakier, and I’m ranting about making progress on edges and turns that most elite figure skaters learn way before they hit adolescence. But I do seem to be moving along (or maybe I’m just imagining it).

But no, it must be true. A funny thing happened in my lesson this week. I was doing the three-step inside mohawk sequence (inside mohawk, inside edge, step forward to an inside edge and repeat on the other side) and Ari said “It’s getting better” and I was so surprised I almost fell down on the next one. Definitely not used to mohawk-inspired praise!

Speaking of life-long learning, Laurie sent me a link to a recent article in the New York Times Magazine: a lovely essay by Lewis Lapham and a set of interviews with some very famous people who, even in their 80s and 90s, are still working, still creative, still vital.  It is definitely worth reading. Here are my favorite excerpts (with my favorite quotes in bold):

Writer Lewis H. Lapham (who edited Harper’s Magazine for many years as well as wrote many books and articles):

Now I am 79. I’ve written many hundreds of essays, 10 times that number of misbegotten drafts both early and late, and I begin to understand that failure is its own reward. It is in the effort to close the distance between the work imagined and the work achieved wherein it is to be found that the ceaseless labor is the freedom of play, that what’s at stake isn’t a reflection in the mirror of fame but the escape from the prison of the self.

Runner Ginette Bedard (she is 81 and ran her first marathon at age 69), when asked “How long will you keep running marathons?”

I’m going to do this until destiny takes me away. When they gave me the last trophy last Sunday for the half marathon in Central Park, the trophy said, ‘‘From 80 to 99,’’ and I thought, O.K., I’ve got 20 years to go yet. There’s no one left. It’s easy to win.

Actor Christopher Plummer, who is 84. The interviewer says, “I keep hearing that staying in shape is crucial past a certain age. Anything else?” He replies:

Yes. And so is doing the work. It uplifts you. The idea that you’re doing what you love. It’s very important. It’s very sad that most people in the world are not happy with their lot or with their jobs and they can’t wait to retire. And when they retire, it’s like death. . . . They sit at home and watch the television. And that is death. I think you’ve got to continue. We never retire. We shouldn’t retire. Not in our profession. There’s no such thing. We want to drop dead onstage. That would be a nice theatrical way to go.

Actress Betty White who is 92, when asked “What do people get most wrong about being old?”

We’ve made age such a terrible thing that the younger people think that just getting to that age is awful. But if you’re blessed with good health, and I am, and I never take it for granted, you can get by with murder! You get spoiled rotten.

Speaking of spoiled rotten, here is what I can get away with in a leopard print top at age 54. This was also my mother’s (who wore it into her 80s!).

The last word on the subject belongs to Albert Camus, from his “Retour à Tipasa” (Return to Tipasa) [1952].

Au milieu de l’hiver, j’apprenais enfin qu’il y avait en moi un été invincible. (In the midst of winter I found, there was, within me, an invincible summer.)

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Hello winter! And Mom’s sweater #11

In his poem “The Snow Man,” Wallace Stevens wrote that “One must have a mind of winter” in order to avoid associating this season with misery. We had our first real snow today: several inches of the white stuff followed by several inches more of sleet, turning our streets into a slushy mess. The temperature has dropped and it is not going back up. Even my sons are putting on jackets to go outside, rather than defying the weather with their typical teenage bravado. When I tell them to put on warm clothes, their answer is usually “But Mom, we’re Minnesotan!” Not today.

IMG_3580 Indeed, it is a good time to hunker down inside and have another cup of tea and maybe another serving of that strawberry-rhubarb crisp I made with the last of this year’s rhubarb. (Thanks to my skating friend Harriet who gave me a cutting several years ago, we’ve had rhubarb all spring and summer.) And then it’s definitely time to heed the rink’s siren call.

Since I skate all year around, I don’t necessarily associate winter with skating. But it is great to have a sport that actually seems more sensible as the weather turns cold. When I moved to Minnesota many years ago, I outlined all the rinks I could find on the map. There are indoor rinks (where I usually go) and some that are set up on the many lakes and parks. I usually make it out to one or two outdoor sessions every year, if only to remind myself of my skating roots (first trying out double-runner skates on a flooded basketball court and then learning at an outdoor lake at Hudson County Park).

Not today, though: still too early in the season and I’m spoiled by the heated rink and smooth indoor ice. Nothing like driving through the ice and snow to make one breathe a sigh of relief upon arrival. I felt full of gratitude for many things. For being able to shovel out the driveway and still have enough energy to feel like skating afterwards. For the friends who greet me at the rink as if just making it there were a miracle. For music. For my new and improved inside edges. For the anticipation that always comes with the advent of a new season.

Hello winter, you’re here!

The weather kept a lot of folks away today, but the stalwart few were there, and so was I in Mom’s sweater #11 (the penultimate one, I think–getting towards the end of the sweater series now). This one is cozy and warm and full of geometric shapes. Definitely rink-worthy!